This is a conversation class for higher levels (high B2 +) the main reason for the level specification is that uses clips from the UK version of the reality show “Wife Swap” which lower levels might find difficult to follow. Then again, you never know, it might be a good challenge.
Brainstorm reality TV shows
Have your students brainstorm all the reality TV shows they have in their country. Encourage students to describe the formats of the shows. If you have a mixed nationality group encourage the students to compare reality shows from their different respective countries.
Either put students in small groups (3-4) or discuss the following questions as a class:
- How long do you spend in front of the TV on an average day?
- What shows do you watch?
- What your favourite / least favourite shows?
- What are the most popular shows on TV at the moment? Are any of them reality shows?
- Do you watch any reality shows? Which ones?
- Why are they entertaining?
- Would you ever go on a reality show? Why? Why not? If so which one?
- What about talent shows like “The X Factor” or “American Idol”?
Have students report back to the rest of class.
Write “Wife Swap” on the board. Tell students that it is the name of a reality show in the UK and the US. Have them guess the format of the show from the name (two wives swap families for a week, each has to live the others life; do their job, look after their kids etc), then ask them the following:
- Do you have this show in your country?
- Do / Did you watch it? If you did would you watch it?
- What do you think would be some entertaining swaps? Brainstorm entertaining swaps with reasons.
Tell students that they are going to watch part of an episode of wife swap, first you need to pre-teach some expressions that will help them understand the clip. Put the following expressions and vocab on the board and have students try to guess the meanings.
- a country pile – a big country house / mansion
- to go to the dogs – to deteriorate / get into a bad state. Old people in England often say: “This country has gone to the dogs.”
- I can’t hack it – I can’t bear it / I can’t cope with it / I can’t tolerate it
- council house – a government owned house rented by low-income families
- to do jackshit – to do nothing
- to be on benefits – to be receiving financial help from the state; unemployment money for example
- to be stuck in a rut – expression meaning to be in a boring lifestyle that never changes
- to roam – to walk / move with no fixed objective
- a hoover – a vacuum cleaner
- a man / woman of leisure – a person who spends all their time doing things they enjoy, usually a rich person.
- a hooker – a prostitute
- to see eye to eye – to agree
- slack / slovenly – lazy
- give him an inch and he’ll take a mile – expression meaning that someone will exploit you / take advantage of you if you give them the opportunity
Show students video of part 1 of wife swap UK until 00:38 (this is just the introduction of the two participating families)
Put them in groups and have them make predictions about what sort of problems and conflicts the two families are going to have and also to make comparisons between the two families. Students report back to class.
Now show students the whole of part 1, it’s about 10 minutes. Before showing them tell them to listen out for the expressions you have pre-taught then go through them afterwards. Students report back the context of each one of the pieces of vocabulary.
Ask students what they thought of the show:
- Was it entertaining?
- Do you want to know what happens next?
- Which family did you prefer?
- Which family would you prefer to spend a week living with?
Students watch the rest of the episode for homework and make notes on what problems the two wives encountered. In the next class students can report and discuss this. If you are preparing your students for a Cambridge exam (FCE, CAE, CPE) you can have them write a review of the show as this format often comes up in part 2 of the writing paper of these exams. A review task type idea could be:
An English language television magazine has asked for readers to send in their reviews of the first episode of wife swap. Reviews should:
- Give a brief description of the show
- Comment on the shows entertainment value
- Say if the writer would recommend the show to other viewers.
- If they would recommend it, who would they recommend it to?
FCE word limit – 120-180
CAE – 220-260
CPE – 280-320
Let me know how it goes in the comment, especially if you try it with FCE levels.
12 thoughts on “Reality TV Conversation Class”
I’m going to do this today! Thanks! Perfect for my FCEs.
Ok cool, let me know how it goes, I was worried that my FCEs might have a little trouble with the clips but you could always breaking them up into shorter pieces.
Most of them were familiar with this programme (or a version of it at least). We did a lot of prediction and vocabulary about the types of houses, families, lifestyles etc… so it was fine. Good lesson!
Glad to hear it
Do you happen to know which series and episode this episode of Wife Swap is from? The video no longer appears on YouTube, unfortunately!
Arghh! No! Damn youtube! I’ll try to find out which episode it was, I was planning on using this lesson next week.
After quite a bit of time trying to find this episode through quoting the expressions on this page into google, I managed to find the episode on youtube! It’s Officially Series 3 Episode 6, but the link can be found here:
Thanks again for the lesson plan 🙂
Brilliant! Thanks a lot, I’ll replace the dead links.
I think this needs re-wording: 4.council house – a house given to a poor family by the state
It comes across as derogatory and is incorrect, families on a low income are not given a house by the council, they rent a house from the council.
Duly noted and changed.
the link doesn’t seem to work. I wanted to give it a try with my CAE students.
They keep taking it down, can’t seem to find it at the moment. It’s series 3 episode 6 of the UK edition of the show. There’s also a US and Australian version so be careful.